North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II discuss being back to the NCAA Final Four and trying to win it all, in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis and Casey Benson, discuss counting their blessings, meeting Kobe Bryant and playing a Final Four in their home state, respectively, in the locker room on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews and Nigel Williams-Goss talk about rising to the moment of the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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South Carolina’s PJ Dozier and Duane Notice talk about their confidence and under dog status for the NCAA Final Four in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium on March 30, 2017. (David Wallace/azcentral sports)
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Downtown Phoenix gets ready to host the NCAA Final Four Fan Fest and house the teams as they play in nearby Glendale for the NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azcentral.com
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Luke Maye connected on a last-second jump shot to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats and send North Carolina to the Final Four.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach goes behind the scenes of South Carolina’s win over Florida, which sends the Gamecocks to their first Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports
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The Oregon Ducks have reached the Final Four for the first time since 1939 after a 74-60 win over the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight.
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USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken breaks down Gonzaga’s Elite Eight victory over Xavier.
USA TODAY Sports
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The court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral
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azcentral’s Paola Boivin breaks down Arizona’s loss to Xavier in the Sweet 16. Video: Michael Chow/azcentral.com
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The Arizona Wildcats, who many had in the Final Four, are bounced from the NCAA Tournament. Plus, the Oakland Raiders may soon be the Las Vegas Raiders. Will that actually happen? Video: azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder looks at how the Jayhawks and Ducks prevailed to set up their upcoming matchup in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
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ULCA head coach Steve Alford acknowledges the game against the two ‘bluebloods’ of NCAA basketball with the most championships between them.
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Considered all but done after losing their star point guard and dropping six straight games in February, Xavier has improbably made a run to the Elite Eight after defeating No. 2 Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.
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Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller is the third highest-paid head coach in the NCAA Tournament and can earn close to $1 million in bonuses for winning the national title.
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Take a look at some at the faces of celebration and dejection from the tourney.
USA TODAY Sports
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The massive scoreboard known as “Colussus TV” is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for the upcoming NCAA Final Four games. David Wallace/azentral.com
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Being on network TV means this years NCAA tourney should easily overtake last year’s viewership. Richard Deitsch explains how to watch the Madness.
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North Carolina on being back to the NCAA Final Four
Oregon on counting their blessings
Gonzaga on rising to the moment
South Carolina on their confidence and underdog status
Downtown Phoenix gets ready for NCAA Final Four
North Carolina headed to Final Four with win over Kentucky
South Carolina makes history with Final Four berth
Oregon advances to first Final Four since 1939 with win over Kansas
Gonzaga advances to program’s first Final Four
Piece by piece, the court for the NCAA Final Four tournament is put together in Glendale
Paola Boivin recaps Arizona’s loss to Xavier
Shot Clock: Arizona knocked out; Raiders moving to Vegas?
Kansas and Oregon set up intriguing Elite 8 matchup
UCLA’s Steve Alford talks about playing Kentucky
No. 11 Xavier upsets No. 2 Arizona to head to Elite Eight
A closer look at Sean Miller’s salary and bonuses
March Madness: Craziest faces of the NCAA tournament
Scoreboard installed at University of Phoenix Stadium for Final Four
Media circus: A guide to March Madness
The Final Four isn’t must-see television in Poland, but it was a decade or so ago to Przemek Karnowski, who was in his early teens at the time.
Karnowski, around 14 at the time, shut the lights off in his room and watched the games on his computer in the wee hours of the morning.
“I was just hoping my parents were asleep,” he said.
This year, more than a handful of Poles likely will stay up to watch the broadcast of at least one of the two semifinal games. The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, who also plays for the Polish National team, is the starting center for Gonzaga, which plays South Carolina on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Karnowski said he’s heard the games will be televised back home.
“The TV station and our Polish National team and some other people came to the conclusion that it would be very beneficial to show it,” Karnowski said on Thursday. “I’m just happy people will be able to see it. It actually will be at midnight so it won’t be super, super late.”
For Karnowski, this Final Four is the culmination of a long, unusual and, at times, painful career.
Growing up in Torun, Poland, Karnowski had never heard of Gonzaga until it started recruiting him, so he didn’t know what, or where, the school was.
“When I first looked for Gonzaga, I thought it was a city and I thought it was in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “So I bought a big, big map of the United States to see where all the universities were that were recruiting me.”
He looked for 20 minutes for Gonzaga in and around Washington, D.C., before he and his parents turned to the Internet.
“We found out Gonzaga is not a city,” Karnowski said, smiling. “It’s actually Spokane and it’s actually not D.C., it’s Washington on the west side. We didn’t have a hard time finding any other schools.”
As he found out more about Gonzaga, Karnowski was intrigued. Under coach Mark Few, the Bulldogs had built a reputation for recruiting internationally and developing players.
So Karnowski signed and arrived in Spokane in 2012. As a freshman, Karnowski played behind Kelly Olynyk, now with the Celtics, and then started the next two seasons.
His basketball career, however, nearly ended last season because of a debilitating back problem. Karnowski had trouble even getting out of bed, much less running down a court, and he played in only five games.
He underwent surgery, developed an infection and lost nearly 60 pounds.
“There was a very high probability that he was not going to play basketball again,” Few said on Thursday. “I mean, he couldn’t even get in or out of a car, or really walk.
“And then I was really worried about depression and things like that. Emotionally, he wasn’t in a great place. Going from those dark days to right now, it literally is miraculous and I’m not using the term lightly.”
Karnowski was granted a medical redshirt season by the NCAA. He was cleared medically to play last October and is averaging 12 points a game for the Bulldogs, who are 36-1 and the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
Making it as a player to the Final Four “is a great feeling,” he said. “The atmosphere of the entire event is awesome, how (many) people want to come here and watch it, and at the same time, watch it in front of their TVs at home.”
Even in Poland.